#FBF: Reminiscing About “The Judith French Poetry Recitation”

Back in 2013, fresh after seeing his first “Judith French Poetry Recitation,” Mr. Bishop wrote about the experience. With today being the day for the 2019 event, we thought it a good time to hit the flashback button to 2013…

LA the Big Winner After Class of 2014’s Poetry Recitation

My own stomach rolled nervously as I watched finalists prepare for their performances in the auditorium.

That retrograde (regurgitate?) emotion—fueled, no doubt, by repressed memories bearing images of regrettable attempts at acting and public speaking throughout my academic career—was further fueled by my new colleagues joking that new faculty are often asked to recite poems during the program and I would be next up on stage (to which I remarked my selection would be short and entitled “I Quit.”).

 

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Franchesca Kiesling ’14

 

However, it was no joking matter to the 10 Lawrence Academy students who took the stage to entertain and enlighten their classmates and teachers during last Wednesday’s Judith French Junior Poetry Recitation Competition.

With selections from Gwendolyn Brooks’ “Primer for Blacks” to Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” to Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, a wide swath of English verse stood as testament to the diversity of Lawrence’s student body as well as the breadth of their interests.

“I’m not so sure that the piece itself spoke to me with its story, so much as its language and sound did,” said Conrad Solomon of his poem by Poe. “Although the story does touch me emotionally, I find “Annabel Lee” to be almost like a piece of music that is pleasing to the ear.”

And, far from being immobilized by nerves, some of the finalists spoke about the empowerment inherent in the competition.

“Strangely enough, I found this process very enjoyable,” said Jonathan Mangini, who recited Jack Gilbert’s “Once Upon A Time”.

“For me, it was almost a treat to be able to recite poetry and bring about art to a whole school environment.

“Although, I’d have to say that I was most nervous in the classroom setting,” he added.

Jonny wasn’t the only member of the class of ’14 who found a certain amount of terror while looking into the eyes of their classmates.

“With 15 people staring at you [in the students’ individual classes], you feel and hear and see all the eyes staring you down and every minute gesture being done,” explained Franchesca Kiesling, who performed “Magic” by Gabriel Gadfly. “In front of 400, your eyes get lost in the crowd; you don’t see everyone as another pair of eyes, but as just another face.

“I must admit that beforehand I definitely had some nervous energy to expel, but once up there, it was easy.”

Franchesca, who could be seen frenetically reciting her lines to herself prior to the event, might have found it easy to calm down during the proceedings, however, it wasn’t so easy for everyone in the crowd to stem the strain.

“Yes, I do get nervous for the students as they perform,” admitted Mark Haman, long-time Lawrence English teacher and the afternoon’s master of ceremonies. “I will have seen each of them recite at least once before and have a sense of the possibilities for each.

“Some of the performers are my students, and for them I feel an especial concern, having seen them work hard throughout the stages of preparation. I worry about the distractions…[and] I worry about the gap between performers as the judges write their notes, aware that extending the wait for the remaining performers can only aggravate their nervousness.

“I don’t especially worry about the audience being restless, because nearly twenty years of these events has reassured me that many people, adults and students alike, feel that the recitation is one of the highlights of the school year,” he said.

After the recitation, Haman’s feelings seemed universal around campus, and even the highly competitive contestants were glad to see everyone’s performance rise to the occasion.

“What stood out particularly to me was the high caliber of poems that were recited…and how much courage it took for some of my classmates to get up on stage and recite their poems with gusto,” said Sebastian Sidney after his recitation of Brooks’ poetry. “This competition will always have a special place in my heart.”

But not all of the contestants—particularly the eventual winner—can actually recall their recital.

“I won’t remember reciting the poem itself,” Franchesca said. “It just came and went.

“But I’ll remember the slight nod of my head signifying I was finished and hearing everyone love it. That is my most favorite feeling.”

However, even though Kiesling’s recitation was adjudged the favorite, while she reviewed her own memories of the three competitions she’d witnessed since matriculating at Lawrence, Franchesca echoed the sentiments of many who witnessed the 2013 competition.

“Freshman year I thought it was so cool, and I had always wanted to do it,” she said. “Sophomore year I still thought the same thing, and I also thought of how brave everyone was.

“I think this year was the best of all though,” added Franchesca. “Our class owned this poetry recitation and if I was the judge, I’d let us all win.”

Elm Tree Press: Boarding at LA

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By Kevin Weaver ’20

When I first knew I was coming to Lawrence Academy, my biggest worry was boarding.

Throughout my life, I had never spent a lot of time away from my family, so living on appropriately accommodatedcampus for the next four school years seemed like it would be the toughest thing I would ever have to do in my life.

But this big change of living in an entirely new environment quickly became one of my favorite things about Lawrence Academy. On the first weekend on campus, I remember making some of my closest friends and haven’t worried about boarding since…

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Whenever someone asks me about weekends at Lawrence Academy, I always tell them there is never a dull weekend on campus. Every week, Lawrence Academy creates a packed lineup of activities that spread across a wide range of offerings.

Some of my favorite activities from my past three years have been: football and snacks in MacNeil lounge – always a great way to decompress on Sundays; mall trips – where I have made some of my favorite memories; movie trips – it’s always great to see the latest movies with friends; and open houses in the dorms – it’s so much fun to make new friends in another dorm.

And these are just four of the many activities that make weekends at LA seem like endless fun.

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One of the best part about boarding is that Lawrence Academy really makes sure that boarding students are accommodated properly.

In the past, whenever I have needed anything on or off campus, faculty members have done all they could to help me. This includes times as simple as when my advisor drove me to CVS or the grocery store.

However, few times have been as memorable as when my doorknob stopped working.

It was my sophomore year, and my doorknob wouldn’t turn all the way, so unless I left my door open, I was locked out of my room. When I told Mr. Gagnon, the faculty member on duty that night, he said to me that he’d help when he was done checking people in.

So, when he was done, he came down to my room to see what he could do to help.

When we realized that this was something we couldn’t just solve with our bare hands, we borrowed a screwdriver from a friend and began to take apart the doorknob. While lead by a YouTube video, we ended up taking the doorknob off completely before realizing that there wasn’t much more we could do, and the smart move was to notify our Building and Grounds team.

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Even though we walked away unsuccessful, I remember thinking about how fortunate I am to be part of a community where people will do whatever they can to help me, even if it means getting back to their wife and kids past midnight.

That’s the kind of community I love being a part of…

Elm Tree Press: Theatre at LA

by Mike Templeton ’19

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Questions:

  • Who is this strange man (a.k.a. Joel Sugerman)?
  • Why is he running across campus with those weird glasses; spectacles that rest perfectly on his nose?

Answers:

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Well, Mr. Sugerman may be eccentric (to say the least). But he is at the helm of Lawrence Academy’s spectacular Theatre Department where the opportunities offered to you are incredible, and you must get involved.

However, it all starts by walking into the Theatre Classroom where all the magic is made…

Besides being a homage to the great Charlie Chaplin (and also decorated with posters that make you think deeply), this is where we — the students — create.

In the fall, the play comes together; in the winter, the musical. In the spring, well, that’s when “One Acts” are in full swing.

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To give you some insight on my experience, freshman year I had the time of my life playing “Audrey II” in Little Shop of Horrors; a very opinionated disciple in Godspell the next year; the “Squeegee Man” in Rent, and two hilarious roles in two years of “One Acts.”

In short, my experience at LA would have been very different if I didn’t involve myself in the Theater Department!

But it’s entirely up to you to take that first step.

So, even if you have never been in a play or performed a scene publically in your life —

NOW IS THE TIME! IT IS SO MUCH FUN AND WORTH EVERY SECOND!

Check out Mike’s “theatre reel,” used in his college applications…

Elm Tree Press: Get Involved

by Mickey Feeney ’19

Hi! My name is Mickey, and I’m a senior day student at Lawrence Academy from Concord, Mass.

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If you asked anyone at LA about me, I’d bet that they’d tell you that I’m involved in just about everything! From debate to the band to student government, I do it all. Being involved is something that I love, and something that LA has encouraged me to pursue…

I remember attending the club fair my freshman fall and being amazed by the variety of opportunities there are to get involved at LA. 

We have a plethora of vibrant, student-run clubs, each one with its own passionate following, there are opportunities to run for our super fun and energetic Student Government, art and music groups are available to all.

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And there is no shortage of community service events!

If there is an activity or interest of yours that you would like to start a club for, the faculty will do whatever they can to help you make that happen.

Even if you aren’t super interested in getting involved, you may surprise yourself and end up joining a club or two. Regardless of whether you are a first-year student or a fourth-year senior, at LA you will be encouraged to get involved and pursue your interests outside of academics.

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At LA, life and learning exist within the classroom as well as outside of it. It’s really amazing to live in a community like this one.

So, be sure to come to campus and check it out! 

Mickey’s cabinet made a humourous Mountain Day video.  Check it out:

 

Elm Tree Press: Who You Are

by Veronica Saldanha  ’20

As stated by its mission statement:

Lawrence Academy recognizes you for who you are and inspires you to take responsibility for who you want to become…

Personally, over the last several years at Lawrence Academy, I have come to realize that being who you are is a big part of being a student at LA.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 3.42.13 PMAs an international student, when I first moved onto Lawrence Academy’s campus, I was shocked by the learning environment.

It just seemed to be hands-on and very interactive.

I remember freshman year in Global Cultures class, we were learning about the Harlem Renaissance and the teacher, Mrs. Huggins, decided that we were going to do a project that would involve pretending we were characters from the Harlem Renaissance.

With the mission statement in my head, I decided that I would try singing in front of my peers.

At that time, I really thought to myself that it was either going to lead to something good or just be a big embarrassment, as I had only really sung in my room. However, I still decided to go for it.

When the time came, I sang in front of 16 of my peers and the response was pretty good. But something that really stuck with me was the fact that I started singing because of history class, because of the support that was given to me from my teacher and peers.

I could’ve just stayed silent and done nothing, but instead, I decided to step out of my comfort zone.

I was then introduced to the Music Department who helped me build my confidence to perform in front of a whole audience in the auditorium. Ever since then, I have been part of the LA singers and the annual school musical.

I would have never started singing if it wasn’t for my teacher and peers at LA. When I first came here, I never realized that I would find something that I love, let alone find confidence in a history classroom. I became invested in singers and now it is one of the things on campus that I love the most. It has become an important part of my life and I will always thank LA for the support.

Whether it is sports or music, LA has always been supportive and is a great community to discover yourself.

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